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Legal Affairs Archive

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Judiciary Chairmen Intent on Curbing Patent Trolls

A number of bills are pending in Congress that aim to combat the rise of patent trolls, but the ones worth watching are the offerings from the two Judiciary chairmen.

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Action on Cybersecurity Likely Delayed Until 2014

Congress almost certainly won’t pass any kind of major cybersecurity legislation in 2013, according to industry officials, lobbyists and others who track the issue.

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Navy Yard Shooting Hasn't Broken Logjam on Gun Control in Congress

The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard — which took place a mile from the Capitol — has advocates once again talking about gun legislation, but still without the votes to pass it.

Stop Trying to Stop Leaks. Engage the Press Instead | Commentary

Long before Edward Snowden, even before Bradley Manning, Washington has over the past decade — and with growing prosecutorial zeal — focused on deterring leakers. The government could do many things to cut down on leaks, such as repairing the broken whistle-blower process and fixing a system that rewards overclassification.

D.C. Court Adopts Old Judicial Error to Inflate Executive Power | Commentary

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 23 ruled that a law Congress passed in 2002 “impermissibly infringes” on the president’s power to recognize foreign governments. The statute required the secretary of State to record “Israel” as the place of birth on the passport of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem if the parent or guardian so requests.

Workplace Protections: A Rare Opportunity for Compromise | Commentary

Lawmakers returning to town after Labor Day are facing an agenda filled with political land mines, from threats of a government shutdown over spending to the sequester. But there is one bill that is smooth sailing, enormously popular and so common-sense that Americans are routinely shocked to learn it isn’t already law.

Democrats Applaud Justice's Pot Guidance

Democrats did a press release victory lap Thursday, after the Justice Department announced it would not challenge marijuana legalization laws in states — just as long as those states establish “regulatory schemes” and focus on certain “enforcement priorities.”

Obama Hasn't Evolved on Pot -- Yet

President Barack Obama doesn’t favor changing marijuana laws “at this point” but he also believes that federal law enforcement resources should not be focused on individual users, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

Manning Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy but Larger Issues Loom | Commentary

Bradley Manning’s acquittal on the charge of “aiding the enemy” signals a welcome bit of rationality in an otherwise misfocused three-year executive branch endeavor that ultimately fails to address the real national security challenges revealed by this case. Conviction on that charge of an individual lacking specific intent to actually aid an enemy would have established dangerous precedent. Under the literal language of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and historical practice pre-dating the Constitution) it can be applied by a court-martial to “any person,” not just those otherwise subject to military justice. Even more important, in my opinion, is the fact that Manning’s trial distracts us from the real national security issues raised by this incident.

DOMA Ruling Could Expand Financial Disclosure | Davidson

Q. I have a question about your recent article on how House ethics rules could be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. I am in a same-sex marriage with a House staffer that the law recognizes in our state. My question concerns the financial disclosure forms my spouse must file each year with the House. I know that these forms generally ask for information concerning the filer and the filer’s spouse but that this has never applied to same-sex spouses. I am a private person and don’t like the idea of the public knowing about my financial affairs. While my spouse and I of course were elated about the Supreme Court decision, I am concerned that it might mean he must start including my information on his disclosure forms. Does it?

Send the Arms Trade Treaty to the Senate | Commentary

There are more international regulations for the cross-border sale of comfy armchairs than there are for deadly arms. Yes, you read that right. Furniture, fruit and iPods are just a few of the items that cross international borders on a daily basis with more regulation than weapons that can be used to fuel war, tyrannical repression and genocide.

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No Clear Direction on Cellphone Location Tracking

The question of whether law enforcement officials need a warrant to track individuals using their cellphones remains open, but the prospects for legislation on the issue are murky at best in Congress.

States Not Waiting for Congress on GPS Tracking Laws

When Maine enacted legislation last week banning law enforcement officials from tracking individuals using cellphones or other GPS-enabled devices, it became the second state to do so after Montana. A similar effort failed in the Texas Legislature, but there is little doubt that other states will also act if Congress fails to update the statutes that govern access to digital communications.

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Gutierrez Wants Trayvon Martin Hearing

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez wants a congressional hearing on how George Zimmerman could go free after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.

ATF Nominee Faces Trouble as Background Check Funding Prospects Uncertain

Gun control supporters made progress in both chambers this week, as a Senate committee advanced a nominee to become the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in seven years and a House panel approved a significant funding increase to improve background checks on gun sales.

ENDA Has Been Waiting 2 Decades for Passage

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been pending in Congress for two decades. Here is a look at the key turning points in the legislative history. 1994: ENDA was first introduced in the 103rd Congress in 1994 with 30 co-sponsors in the Senate and 137 co-sponsors in the House. The bill, though introduced in various forms since then and mainly supported by Democrats, has almost always had at least one Republican co-sponsor. Even in 1994, the proposal had the backing of Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Republican from Vermont who in 2001 became an independent who caucused with Democrats, as well as seven House Republicans. 1996: The Senate held a floor vote on ENDA but it failed by one vote, 50-49. The main sponsor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., gave an impassioned speech in the chamber, saying: “Today we have the chance to take a meaningful forward step on the road to make America America. We have a really important opportunity to turn our back on bigotry, to turn our back on intolerance, to turn our back on discrimination. We can take an important step in the progress of making America America.” 1998: President Bill Clinton, who had urged Congress in his State of the Union addresses to pass ENDA, signed an executive order that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation for federal employees. 2007: ENDA was introduced for the first time with language that protected gender identity. Though that specific provision was stripped from the bill when it came up for a vote in the House, it marked the first and only time that the proposal passed out of a chamber of Congress. The House supported the bill 235-184, but it eventually died in the Senate, mainly because President George W. Bush threatened a veto. 2013: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee cleared ENDA on Wednesday, readying it for a vote by the full chamber. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he plans to bring the legislation to the floor swiftly, and the bipartisan support the bill garnered in committee hints at the likelihood that it will pass the Senate.

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Momentum Bolsters Workplace Discrimination Bill

In June, several lawmakers received a visit from Kristin Beck, a Florida native who, after serving for more than 20 years as a male U.S. Navy SEAL, recently revealed her identity as a transgender woman.

Congress Can Follow Colorado's Lead on Voting Rights | Commentary

When judicial historians look back, June 25, 2013, will be a tough day to explain. The 15th Amendment is clear: Americans have the right to vote; it may not be denied based on race; and Congress may enforce the amendment through legislation. So how did a narrow majority on the Supreme Court conclude that they should gut the Voting Rights Act?

Congress Must Act Now on the Voting Rights Act | Commentary

We should remember why the Voting Rights Act was enacted in the first place. For decades, states with minority populations systematically disenfranchised minorities, in particular African-Americans, by any number of egregious methods. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided a formula and a method for those states and localities that had the highest number of minorities and had been the worst offenders of voter disenfranchisement.

Congress Must Keep Liberty's Flame Alive | Wolfensberger

In this age of the Internet and high-tech surveillance, is individual liberty irrelevant, obsolete or just undervalued? The answer could well be all of the above, judging from tepid public and congressional reactions to recent government intrusions into individual privacy, speech, press and association rights.

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